A federal appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a lawsuit alleging that the owners of the Power & Light District had policies and practices aimed at excluding African-Americans from the entertainment area in downtown Kansas City.
The decision revives the legal dispute over whether the Cordish Companies and its affiliates schemed to turn away black men from the district’s Kansas City Live! area while under the supervision of officials allegedly reporting to current Trump administration adviser Reed Cordish.
Cordish, who is assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives, was not named individually as a defendant in the 2014 lawsuit. But the plaintiffs state in court filings that the managers in charge of the Kansas City operation reported to him.
A district court judge in Kansas City dismissed portions of the litigation two years ago on technical grounds. But a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis reinstated part of the lawsuit brought by two African-American men, Dante A.R. Combs and Adam S. Williams.
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Both alleged that they had been victims of discrimination. They claimed that Cordish affiliates hired white men known as “rabbits” employed to pick fights with black patrons in order to get them ejected.
The appeals court said that while “there is evidence that Cordish (the company) directed individuals to instigate fights in an effort to remove African Americans from the LiveBlock,” neither of the men appeared to have been victims of that ploy.
However, the appeals court said Combs had raised “a genuine issue for trial” in his allegation that he had been excluded from the Mosaic nightclub in 2011 based on how he was dressed.
He said whites were allowed into the club, but he was singled out allegedly because his pants were “too (expletive) baggy,” even though he was wearing a tailored suit.
Nick Benjamin, executive director of the Power & Light District, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Cordish has repeatedly denied that it discriminates against any particular group, but modified its dress code after the Kansas City Human Relations Department filed a discrimination complaint in 2009. That complaint was settled in 2010.